BCG vaccination and risk of atopy

JAMA. 2003 Feb 26;289(8):1012-5. doi: 10.1001/jama.289.8.1012.


Context: It has been suggested that BCG vaccination may protect against development of allergic diseases, particularly when given just after birth. BCG vaccination was given routinely to all infants in Greenland until 1990, when it was withdrawn from the vaccination program. Whether this resulted in an increased prevalence of atopy in children born after the stop of BCG vaccination is unknown.

Objective: To determine whether BCG vaccination and age at BCG vaccination are associated with development of atopy.

Design, setting, and participants: Cross-sectional study among schoolchildren aged 8 to 16 years in 4 towns on the northwest coast of Greenland. Participants had a blood sample drawn and information on BCG vaccination was obtained during 2 periods, November 1998 and November 2001. A total of 1686 children (79% of available children) participated, 1575 of whom had complete information on vaccination status. Atopy was defined as a positive test result in an assay that tests for IgE specific against the most common inhalant allergens in serum.

Main outcome measures: Odds ratio (OR) of atopy in BCG-vaccinated compared with unvaccinated children and OR according to age at vaccination.

Results: The risk of atopy was the same in BCG-vaccinated compared with unvaccinated children after adjustment for confounders (OR, 1.03; 95% confidence interval, 0.72-1.48). The risk of atopy in BCG-vaccinated children was not associated with age at vaccination (P =.17).

Conclusions: BCG vaccination administered to infants is not associated with reduced risk of development of atopy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • BCG Vaccine / immunology*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Greenland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / epidemiology*
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / immunology*
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Immunologic Tests
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Vaccination


  • BCG Vaccine
  • Immunoglobulin E